light into ashes
Apr 25, 2011 7:45pm
Re: Mahler's 3rd, Phil Lesh interview, spring 1990 space
Interesting, that little Other One piece sounded like a typical part of the Other One universe to me.
This is an example where they step out of the Other One into a Jerry/Phil duet, track 23 after the tapecut at 12:30, and they explore it for a couple minutes before switching gears: http://www.archive.org/details/gd72-07-25.sbd.cotsman.7046.sbeok.shnf
It would be interesting to read a history of just the Dead's transitions throughout their career, and how they changed. It's surprising that you say '73-74 has their most musically sophisticated transitions. While those years have the farthest-ranging jams, they also have a rather small range of songs that got used in second-set medleys, so the transitions tended to be between very familiar points. And, as you say, the jam>chaos>space>new song transition was leaned on pretty heavily in that period. One advantage '80s fans have is that a lot more songs could be used in the medleys, and along with the development of Space, that led to some unusual juxtapositions.
Weir said in '81: "Right before we knocked off in '74, we got so musically inbred that we were playing some fairly amazing stuff, but almost nobody could hear it or relate to it except for us... We were speaking a language known only to us, using a musical vocabulary that was really pretty esoteric at points... There were the close-in core of fans, like yourself probably, who could follow it. But the average kid who came to the show...we lost them with pretty fair regularity. Since then, we've gotten more succinct. The space music, though it happens, generally doesn't go on for as long, and if it does go on for a while, we generally get to the heart of what we're getting to a lot quicker... [With two drummers] every single musician you add in a group like the Dead makes it more difficult to be real open & loose - it's just not as easy as it was back then to ramble from place to place, so we have to hone our instincts as to where to go & how to get there as quickly as possible."
About key transitions:
Phil: "You change one note in the scale, from, say, G sharp to G natural in an A scale, and you can go smoothly from Eyes of the World to Uncle John's Band." (Then he complains that they never take the time to do that.)
Jerry in '88: "It used to be that a lot of what we were doing was going from one song into a wholly different kind of song where the transition itself would be a piece of music. Lately it's much less that. It's more that we are able to come up with transitions that are very graceful in a real short amount of time, because we've tried almost everything by now, in terms of going from one thing into another. It's not that the transitional music doesn't exist anymore; it's just that we've worn the pathways...there aren't many surprises left."
(Phil strenuously disagreed with this idea!)
Jerry was asked about why some segues were so common:
"Those work because of graceful key relationships; they work well because we picked them to work well... Like Estimated Prophet into Eyes of the World. They have an interesting key relationship to each other. You can play an E-major seventh scale against the leading F-sharp minor in Estimated Prophet without changing a note. So it's the same intervals exactly; it's just in different places on the scale. That makes it so you can play through a lot of places. And while we're making that transition we go from, like, B-minor to C-sharp seventh, to a little E-minor, a little C-major. There are all these possible changes, so that by changing one or two intervals, all of a sudden they'll work. But sometimes we have to discuss them because they're not all that obvious; it's not obvious what the leading tones are. Also, the rhythmic relationships is very off. So I can find a pulse in there that'll be a perfect tempo for Eyes of the World, regardless of what tempo Estimated Prophet was at, and that makes it interesting for me 'cause it's wide open.
Bob tends not to design much in bridging material. When I choose to go from one song to another, I like a segue, I like the doorways. Bob doesn't seem to care about them one way or another...the songs tend to chop off, they tend to splice into each other."
Then he talks about Blues for Allah:
"That was the next level of development - we came up with some very interesting, alternate ways to invent openness that would be developmental as well. Like I had this one idea that we actually did at the end of Blues for Allah, the song. The original structured point of that 'desert jam' there was that we could either play a single note or an interval of a fifth. You could play them for as long as you wanted to, but any time you heard a four-note chord vertically - each of us would be playing one note - you could move your note so you'd change the harmonic structure of that chord. Nobody could hold a note more than two bars, or less than a whole note, so that would guarantee the harmonic shifting. It didn't quite work the way I wanted to, but we did try it in some live jams, and sometimes it worked. My idea was to try to keep that going, and then have it go faster or slower, and have the instruments play off the harmonies they would perceive at any given moment. So if Keith heard an E-minor seventh, we could play that until it disappeared - I'll turn it into an F... We still do this some. Mostly, Bob and I do it in the space jams now. With just the two of us, it's easier to hear the harmonic content. Now Phil's been joining us lately."
Weir also mentioned in '85, "In the early '70s, there were fewer of us in the band, and during the space jams we were a little more mobile just because there were fewer of us. Now...it's taken a while to get back that kind of mobility again. When Garcia and I go out and play together [in Space], it goes completely different places every night. That stuff is actually more mobile, in terms of the harmonic directions it takes, than any of the stuff we used to do. But the more people you have, the more everyone has to listen. I think it's starting to open up to where the space jams are getting looser. Also, with two drummers, it's almost impossible to do what we could with one drummer in terms of turning one rhythm into another. You can't get two guys to turn the same corner at once..." (He also mentions that sometimes they'd come up with current-events motifs for the Space jams, which Garcia also mentioned: 'airline hijack' or 'Qaddafi death squad', etc.)
In another '89 interview, Weir talks about Victim or the Crime:
"Actually there's a thematic line that's sort of a suggestion of something I copped from Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. I'd actually been working on little permutations of it for a long time, and it's popped up in a couple places [like Saint of Circumstance]. All that sort of stuff that I play on my bass strings, on both those tunes particularly - root and five, root and flat five, root and six or root and nine - and if I hammer those intervals on a quarter-pulse or a sixteenth pulse, that's basically stuff I've lifted from the Rite of Spring, which I consider to be early rock & roll.
The ascending passage that happens after the second verse of Victim or the Crime, and then again during the instrumental part at the end, is sort of a variation on a passage that Bartok did in 'Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste' - all that dissonance. What I've done is sort of a condensation, in a different key and in different intervals, of something he did in the first movement of that piece. I took a couple of lines and had them ascend in a sort of spiral..."